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“An Intimate Revolution in Campus Life”?: Gender Roles and their Impact on Dorm Coedification

This paper is part of the Student Researcher Series which showcases research students have conducted using resources in the Student Life and Culture Archives. If you’re a student who is interested in sharing your research on our blog, please contact us

Joseph Porto is a senior in history and anthropology at the University of Illinois. This paper was written for History 498:Research and Writing Seminar taught by Professor Leslie Reagan. Joseph presented his research at the Ethnography of the University Initiative Conference in December 2015.

At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, (UIUC, U of I) the coedification of the residence halls was administered from the ground up. Students on campus lobbied for new policies and crafted the “Proposed Undergraduate Residence Hall Flexible Living – Master Plan” (henceforth referred to as the Master Plan for convenience) in the summer of 1970, which, after careful revisions from the chancellor, university president, and board of trustees, set the guidelines for the university’s first genuinely coed dorms. The process was enacted on a dorm-by-dorm basis, representing the “Flexible” aspect of the program. Since each dorm created its own unique coedification plan, some interesting patterns arose between the male and female houses which serve to highlight larger gender stereotypes and differences typically perceived by early-year undergraduate students in the late sixties and early seventies.

Review of Previous Research

I had an extremely difficult time finding historical works that focused on college students in residence halls and the coedification process that occurred in the sixties holistically. There was one article that seemed to be a complete “History of Coedification,” Brian J. Willoughby’s “The Decline of In Loco Parentis and the Shift to Coed Housing on College Campuses.” Alas, it was not available within the University’s databases or in any libraries that I could request it from (if I wasn’t a poor undergrad I would have paid the $30 to read it). I found numerous articles and archival correspondence between UIUC and other BIG10 universities about the coedification of specific universities, which I used to gauge how progressive U of I was in comparison to the rest of the nation.[1,2,3,4] Generally, UIUC’s coedification policy was implemented around the same time as other public colleges in the area.

I did find other works that discussed coeducation in general, mainly Leslie Miller-Bernal and Susan L. Poulson’s Going Coed: Women’s Experiences in Formerly Men’s Colleges and Universities, 1950-2000.[5] This book provided some useful insight on general attitudes around coeducation in the sixties, but little information or direct quotes I could use about the coedification process. Elizabeth Pleck’s book also helped me understand general attitudes of the time around coedification/coeducation.[6] I also found a plethora of contemporary articles that examined problems that arise in coed vs. single-sex halls.[7,8,9,10] For example, women are more likely to develop eating disorders in coed halls (Berg), males living single-sex dorms have higher GPAs when compared to coed dorms but females living in single-sex dorms do not (Yongyi, et. al.), and living in single-sex dorms does not have any effect on freshman female students’ GPAs, attitudes toward the university, or conduct (Schoemer and McConnell). Continue reading ““An Intimate Revolution in Campus Life”?: Gender Roles and their Impact on Dorm Coedification”

Campus Traditions: Class Colors and the Color Rush

Color Rush, 1903
Color Rush, 1903

Written by Anna Trammell

We all know that the representative colors of the University of Illinois are orange and blue. For many years, however, students showed loyalty to their individual class by displaying a different set of colors. The tradition of class colors began early in the University’s history. In 1891, the first Color Rush was held. A 1921 Daily Illini article describes the event by saying: “Two poles greased and bearing the class colors at the top were planted about 60 feet apart. Equal numbers of freshmen and sophomores guarded the poles which bore their colors while two other groups, equally divided, sought to tear down the colors.”[1] This battle between freshmen and sophomores, which often ended with injuries and suspensions, was eventually retired. But the tradition of class colors remained. Continue reading “Campus Traditions: Class Colors and the Color Rush”

Campus Traditions: the Failure of the Practical

The Senior Bench (1910)
Senior Bench, 1910

Written by Thomas Hendrickson

Years ago, nearly a century now, the University of Illinois campus was rife with traditions that undergraduate classes were supposed to observe. Many of these traditions were written down for incoming freshmen in student handbooks published by the YMCA. These were traditions that involved the Senior Bench, the Gettysburg Tablet, a no-smoking custom, and many more sensible observances. Yet these traditions fell by the wayside due to their inherent practicality.

The Senior Bench tradition dictated that the Senior Bench donated by the Class of 1900 could only be used by the senior class, and this was written in the student handbooks until the late 1920s. However, the tradition did not last long because students began to simply ignore the rule. Freshmen even got into the habit of decorating the bench with their class numerals as soon as the year started.[1] Continue reading “Campus Traditions: the Failure of the Practical”

An Unusual Sporting Event


Daily Illini, March 15, 1963, page 13. Donkey Basketball Ad.
Advertisement in the Daily Illini
Student on Donkey. Found in RS 41/67/59
Student on Donkey. Found in RS 41/67/59

Written by Leanna Barcelona

There have been many strange events and occurrences on campus at the University of Illinois, but none quite as odd as the sport of “donkey basketball” that took place in the 1960s. The agronomy club Field and Furrow sponsored an event with the Agriculture Education Club on March 15, 1963 at 8:00 pm that included the unique form of recreation dubbed Donkey Basketball played by students and staff in the gymnasium in Huff Hall.[1] Several advertisements for the event appeared in the Daily Illini newspaper and a short article the day of the game was also published under the title, “No Horsing Around at Huff!”:

Donkey Basketball, heralded as “the world’s craziest sport,” is scheduled to invade Huff Gym at 8 tonight. An actual basketball game played on “donkeyback” will take place between the student organization of Agronomy [Field and Furrow] and Agriculture Education, two departments of the College of Agriculture at the University of Illinois. Staff members of each department will compete in the first half with students taking over in the last period. Rules for Donkey Basketball are similar to those used in ordinary basketball except their are only four players (and four donkeys) to each side. The primary object of the game is to get the ball through the hoop, but, as it turns out, a secondary object is to stay on the balking and bucking donkeys.[2]

Continue reading “An Unusual Sporting Event”